At my weekly boardgames night earlier this evening I was roped into an all-expansions, 6-player game of Dominion. A girl on the sidelines piped up: "You should take out the Goons card. It takes all the fun out of the game."
Needless to say... one of the ten cards randomly selected was the Goons. Those of us who hadn't played with the most recent expansions inspected the card. Forcing everyone else to discard down to 3 did seem liable to slow the game to the crawl... but the card did cost a pricey 6. How bad could it be?
I started with a 2-5 copper split and bought a Haven and a Trading Post. From there I was able to whittle my deck free of Coppers and Estates until it was a pretty efficient collection of Silvers and Golds. Even though the player who was buying up Goons was hitting me more turns than not, the three cards left in my hand tended to be worth 5-8 before too long, leaving me in a good position to keep buying Gold, Province and Duchy cards.
I ended the game with 36 points; second place. The "Goon player" had a fairly crazy 48 points. What annoyed me about this is that he hadn't really needed to bother scrabbling to buy Provinces with the rest of us: just playing a lot of Goons and buying stuff had allowed him to amass a stack of victory point chips that left the rest of us in the dust.
It's true that there was a pile of Secret Chambers on the table that most of us failed to buy; I could certainly have done with a few, to sculpt my hand against the Goons and dodge the Spy attacks that almost all the other players at the table seemed to be throwing around with abandon. But it still seems to me that there may be a fair accusation to be levelled against the Goons. For the price of a Gold, they're a much improved Silver - they can easily net you a couple of Estate's worth of free victory points every time you play them, with none of the downsides to the efficiency of your deck! And if that wasn't bad enough, they are also a really annoying attack, with, as previously mentioned, the potential to slow the whole game to half speed if they are constantly being played.
Obviously no card in Dominion is unconditionally broken: for any card, there will always be a configuration of available cards that will combat it efficiently. But are Goons too far along the un-fun end of the spectrum? Was the girl at my group right to propose that they should be removed from the game for its own good?